32: Educational Neglect
- Definition of Educational Neglect:
Educational neglect is the failure by the person responsible for the care, custody, and control of the child to provide an appropriate education and to promote school attendance as required by Missouri Law. Section 167.031 RSMo., requires all children ages 7 up to age 17 to attend school, except that any child who has successfully completed 16 credits toward high school graduation is not required to attend, therefore does not meet the criteria for educational neglect. Children ages 5 and 6 are required to attend school, when they have been enrolled in a public school by their parent or guardian.
Educational Neglect vs. Truancy
Educational neglect must be differentiated from truancy (a status offense).
- When a child is continuously absent from school through intent or neglect of the parent or caretaker, there is educational neglect.
- When a child is absent through his/her own intent, this is truancy and not reportable as child abuse/neglect.
Screening in or Screening Out Educational Neglect Reports
The Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Unit may take reports of educational neglect for children up to the age of 17, unless there is credible information such as from a school reporter who has verified that the subject child has completed 16 credits toward graduation, the report will be screened out.
It is possible that many callers to the CA/N hotline may not have information available at the time of the call about the child’s credit toward graduation. In such cases the call will be screened in as a report; however the family assessment/investigation worker will need to verify the child’s academic credit status with the school early in the process in order to determine whether the report meets the criteria for educational neglect.
If a family assessment/investigation worker verifies with the school district that an alleged victim of educational neglect has completed 16 credit hours toward graduation, and there are no other allegations of abuse neglect regarding any child in the household, the report may be concluded as an inappropriate report.
The Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline Unit may screen out some calls that based on information indicating it is a case of truancy rather than educational neglect.
Home Schooling is when a person responsible for the care, custody, and control of a child is educating that child at home. Home schooling does not constitute educational neglect, however many times during the investigation/family assessment process CA/N reports accepted as educational neglect reports are learned or found to be home schooling. In such cases the worker will need to rule out educational neglect by verifying that a child is being “home schooled”.
- Indicators / Characteristics of Educational Neglect
The indicators of child abuse/neglect vary. No child or caretaker will exhibit all of the physical or behavioral indicators listed, and some of the indicators are contradictory. The behavior of an abused or neglected child and other family members may be sporadic and unpredictable. Indicators should be used only as a general guide. The presence of multiple indicators or the pervasiveness of any one behavior indicator warrants close scrutiny by the worker.
- A child being held responsible for the care of other children during the school day while the parent works.
- A parent who is unable to get the child fed and dressed in time to attend school.
- Failure of parent to obtain and /or cooperate with special or remedial instruction for the child when recommended and provided by the school and the child is not succeeding in current class placement.
Parental / Familial Characteristics
- Highly stressful family situations
- Single parent family
- Recent marital problems
- Insufficient financial and other resources for child care
Other Factors to Consider
- Parent has been advised by school personnel of child’s excessive absenteeism/special educational needs.
- Parent is providing home schooling.
- Parent’s religious practices prevent child’s attendance in a public school setting.
- Types of Evidence
Evidence is collected by Law Enforcement personnel, Children’s Division (CD), and multi-disciplinary team members and used as both physical and credible verbal evidence to document the worker’s investigative conclusion. Evidence for reports of educational neglect may include any one or all of the following:
- Child’s Statement
- School Reports
- Academic Records (specifically current credit hours toward graduation)
- Perpetrator’s Statement
- Juvenile Court Report
- Witness’ Statement
- Interviewing the Child
Missouri State Statute does not require the division or law enforcement to notify the parent of the child prior to interviewing a child when the parent(s) are the alleged perpetrator(s), however pursuant to section 210.145.5 RSMo., when a parent is not the alleged perpetrator, the division is required to contact the parent prior to interviewing the child.
Visible signs are those observations made by the worker during the course of the investigation. Visible signs include, but are not limited to: the size, shape, and location of an injury, behavioral indicators of family members, and physical condition of the family home.
- Definition of Educational Neglect: